We’ve all done these sort of wrap up activities after a reading in language classes. Since I have started to re-evaluate my approach in teaching Latin, namely allowing for more translation work to help establish meaning, the other tools in my tool belt have also been freed up.
In reading around, an exercise called “tenisia” has surfaced in several areas. Basically, it is an activity whereby students are paired and take turns reading the text and then translating each sentence back to their partners. The students are given a time limit (two minutes) and once time is up, they rotate to a new partner, check-in with whoever is further back in the reading, and continue. It works kind of like, well, tennis!
A great variation of this is on Keith Toda’s website, TodallyComprehensiveLatin under Ping Pong/Volleyball reading. John Piazza also refers to this activity and provides further variations here.
I kept my tenisia activity straightforward and simple. I tried it having the students pair up and then just rotate around the room whenever it was time to switch – but it was more successful when I rearranged a later period into two rows and had one side of the class just move to the right a seat (the student at the end would go back to the other end of the row and start over).
After four rounds (8-ish minutes total), the students were able to get mostly through the first lectio in Capitulum XII from Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata. I did have the students read the Latin to each other and translate while I roved around in case anyone needed clarification. The students did feel that this activity was helpful in that they were able to tackle the text and work on translating on the fly – this also helped them switch back and forth between Latin and English.
As I noted before, my goal is to have my students read, speak, and think in the target language – in Latin itself. Yet, I have found that lowering the students’ “affective filters” and working more towards comprehension as the goal for each and every class, we will encourage more active use of the language. It feels a bit like going against intuition, but there is something very positive about this whole process that has me continuing forward.
I think in the very least, we teachers tend to get “target locked” with our courses and our curriculum. We tend to cover and put everything in a neat little box thinking that if we do each step perfectly then each student will have no choice but to master the content. Yet, not every student thinks, learns, or is interested in the same things with even the same amount of vigor. Allowing myself to break free of my own shackles has helped revisit my approach and even rejuvenate my classes. I am also taking in less work, which I typically assign most of the workbook exercitia in order to have my students master the grammar found in the text. By focusing more on the reading and comprehension, the paper and pencil work can decrease and, more importantly, becomes less necessary to assess students. Having work to do every day can also demotivate students, but having engaging encounters are more valuable to student language acquisition.
Getting students repetition and developing comprehension are the two main ingredients. Utilizing tenisia in the classroom is relatively easy and a great way to break up activities in class.